John Lord.

Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents online

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treasury. No fewer than twenty-one thousand chests, valued at nine
million dollars, were brought in from the opium ships and formally
handed over to Commissioner Lin. The foreign community was set free, and
the drug destroyed by being mixed with quicklime.

War was made to punish this outrage on the rights of the foreign
community, and to exact indemnity for the seizure of their property.
Canton was not captured, but held to ransom, and the haughty Viceroy
sent into exile. Other cities were taken and held; and, in 1842, a
treaty of peace was signed at Nanking by which five ports were opened to
foreign trade. The embargo on opium was not withdrawn; but the defeat of
the Chinese resulted in a virtual immunity from seizure together with a
growth of the traffic, such as to justify the ill-odored name which that
war still bears in history.

Treaties with other powers followed in quick succession. On demand of
the French Minister, the Emperor recalled his prohibitory decrees
against Christianity and issued an Edict of Toleration. If the opening
of the ports gave a stimulus to trade, the decree of toleration opened a
door for missionary enterprise. As yet, however, neither merchant nor
missionary was allowed to penetrate into the interior; while the capital
and the whole of the northern seacoast remained inaccessible. This was
obviously a state of things that could not be permanent; yet fifteen
years were to pass before another war came to settle the terms of
intercourse on a broader basis.

When the war broke out, Li Hung Chang was seventeen years of age, living
at Hofei in Anhui. As there were then no newspapers in China it may be
doubted whether he heard of it until a British squadron sailed up to
Nanking and extorted a treaty at the cannon's mouth. Li was rudely
startled by the appearance of a new force, to which there was no
allusion in any of his ancient books. Along with the sailing-ships there
were two or three small steamers. It struck the Chinese with
astonishment to see them make head against wind and tide. _Shin Chuan_,
"ships of the gods," is the name they gave those mysterious vessels.
Little could Li foresee the part he was destined to take in creating a
steam navy for China.

Descended from a long line of scholars, he was supposed to be born to
the pursuit of letters. He did, in fact, devote himself to study with
unflagging zeal, because he had as yet no temptation to turn aside. Was
there not, moreover, an open door before his face inviting him to win
for himself the honors of a mandarinate? In his native town he placed
his foot on the first step of the ladder by gaining the degree of A.B.,
or, in Chinese, "Budding Genius." At the provincial capital he next
carried off the laurel of the second degree, which is worth more than
our A.M., not merely because it is not conferred in course, but because
it falls to the lot of only one in a hundred among some thousands of
competitors. These provincial tournaments occur but once in three years;
and the successful candidates proceed to Peking to compete for the third
degree, or D.C.L., - _Tsin-shi_, or, "Fit for Office." Here the chances
amount to three per cent.

Li's fortunes were again propitious, and in company with two or three
hundred new-made doctors, he was summoned to the palace to contend in
presence of the emperor for the honor of a seat in the Imperial
Academy, - the Hanlin, or "Forest of Pencils." Here also he met with
success, but he was not among the first three whose names are marked by
the vermilion pen of majesty, each of whom sheds lustre on his native
province. The highest of the three is called Chuang Yuen, "Head of the
List" or "Prince of Letters." In the 'fifties it fell to a native of
Ningpo, where I then lived. His good luck was announced to his wife by
the magistrate in person, who conducted her to the six gates, at each of
which she scattered a handful of rice, as an omen of good fortune. In
the 'sixties, when I had removed to Peking, this honor was for the first
time conferred on a Manchu, a son of the General Saishanga. His daughter
was deemed a fit consort for the heir to the throne, wearing for a short
time the tiara of empress, and committing suicide on the death of
her lord.

In the two previous contests, handwriting goes for nothing, but in this
it is not without weight, as the avowed object is to select scribes for
the service of the throne. On those occasions extent of erudition and
originality of thought are the qualities most esteemed; but this time
the order of merit is decided by superficial elegance of style, and by
facility in the composition of verse.

However defective the standard of learning, this long course of
competition, extending over ten or fifteen years, has the effect of
bringing before the throne a body of men each of whom is the survivor of
a hundred contests. No country can boast a better system for the
selection of talent, and the government guards it with jealous care. I
have known more than one examiner put to death for tampering with this
ballot-box of the Empire. For ages it has provided the state with able
officers; nor is its least merit that of converting a dangerous
demagogue into a quiet student.

While waiting for an appointment, Li heard with dismay that Nanking had
been taken by a body of rebels, and that his native province was in
danger of being overrun by them. A new career opened before him, - one
that led more directly to the highest offices within the gift of the
sovereign. Asking a commission in the army, he was assigned to a
position on the staff of Tsengkofan, father of the Marquis Tseng, who
was afterwards Minister to England.

This rebellion, among the strangest of strange things, now claims our



In April, 1853, the news reached us that Nanking had fallen into the
hands of a body of rebels who, by a curious irony, called themselves
Taipings, "Soldiers of Peace."

They were Chinese, not Manchus, and their leaders were all from the
extreme south. Starting near Canton, they had proclaimed as their
object the expulsion of the Tartars. Overrunning Kwangsi and Hunan, they
had got possession of Hankow and the two adjacent cities, - a centre of
wealth which may be compared to the three cities that form our Greater
New York. Everywhere they put to flight the government forces; but they
did not choose to stop anywhere short of the ancient capital of the
Mings. Seizing some thousands of junks, they filled them with the
plunder of that rich mart, and sweeping down the river, carried by
assault every city on its banks until they reached Nanking. Its
resistance was quickly overcome; and putting to death the entire
garrison of twenty-five thousand Manchus, they announced their intention
to make it the capital of their empire, as Hung Wu had done when he
drove out the Mongols and restored freedom to the Chinese race.

In a few months they despatched an expedition to expel the Manchus from
Peking. But that proved a more difficult task than they expected. Before
the detachment had arrived at Tientsin, it was met on the Grand Canal by
a strong force under Sengkolinsin, the Mongol prince. Obliged to winter
on the way, it was divided and cut off in detail; this defeat making it
evident to all the world that the Manchu domination might still hope for
a considerable lease of life. The blood and rapine which everywhere
marked their pathway alienated the sympathy of foreigners from the
Soldiers of Peace. Nor did the new power at Nanking manifest the least
anxiety to obtain foreign aid, feeling assured of ultimate triumph. Yet,
indifferent as they were to the co-operation of foreigners, the Taipings
proclaimed themselves Christians, and appeared to aim their blows no
less at lifeless idols than at living enemies. Shangti, the Supreme
Ruler, the God of the ancient sages, was the object of their worship.
They found his name in the Christian Bibles, and they published the
Bible as the source of their new faith. Their faith amounted to a
frenzy, giving them courage in battle, but not imparting the
self-control essential to Christian morality. Filling their coffers with
spoil, they stocked their harems with the wives and daughters of their
enemies. If their lives had been more decent, they might have had a
better chance to secure the favor of those powerful nations which had
now become the arbiters of destiny in China.

The leader of the movement was a Cantonese by the name of Hung Siu
Chuen. A copy of the Bible having fallen into his hands, he applied to a
Baptist missionary for instruction. How much he learned may be inferred
from the fact that he gave his followers a new form of baptism,
requiring them to wash the bosom as a sign for cleansing the heart. He
had ecstatic visions, and preached a crusade against idolatry and the
Manchus. The ease with which the Manchus had been beaten by the British
in 1842 had revealed their weakness, and the new faith supplied the
rebels with a fresh source of power. They mixed the teachings of the
Gospel with new revelations as freely as Mohammed did in propagating the
religion of the Koran. The chief called himself the younger brother of
Jesus Christ. His prime minister assumed the title of the Holy Ghost;
and his counsels were given out as decrees from Heaven. All this had an
air of blasphemy that shocked the sensibilities of foreigners, and
compelled them to stand aloof or to support the Manchus.

The native authorities were permitted to engage foreign ships and seamen
to operate against the rebels, who sustained a siege in Nanking almost
as long as the siege of Troy. From Shanghai, Suchau, and other cities
the Taipings were driven out by the aid of foreigners, chiefly led by
Ward and Gordon, the former an American, the latter a Briton. General
Ward was never under the command of Li Hung Chang; but to him more than
to any other foreigner belongs the honor of turning the tide of the
Taiping Rebellion. A soldier of fortune, he offered to throw his sword
into the government scale if it were paid for with many times its weight
in gold. Gathering a nondescript force of various nationalities, he
recaptured the city of Sungkiang, and followed this up by such a series
of successes that his little troop came to be known as the
"Ever-victorious Army." Falling before the walls of Tseki, he was
interred with pomp at the scene of his first victory, where a temple was
erected to his memory, and he is now reckoned among the "Joss" of the
Chinese Empire. His force was taken into Li's pay.

General Gordon (the same who fell at Khartoum) acted under the direction
of Li Hung Chang; and his chief exploit was the recovery of Suchau.
Unable to resist his artillery, the rebel chiefs offered to capitulate.
They were assured by him that their lives would be spared. To this Li
Hung Chang consented, and the stronghold was at once surrendered.
Regardless of his plighted faith, Li caused the five leaders to be
beheaded, an act of treachery which filled Gordon with such fury that he
went from camp to camp, looking for Li, determined to put a bullet in
his head. Li, however, avoided a meeting until Gordon's wrath had time
to subside, and that treacherous act laid the foundation of his future
fortunes. He was made governor of the province, and for forty years he
rose in power and influence.

Not only was this terrible rebellion which laid waste the fairest
provinces a sequel to the first war with England, it was prolonged and
aggravated by a second war which broke out in 1857. In 1863, the last
stronghold of the rebels was recaptured, and the rebellion finally
suppressed, after twelve years of dismal carnage. In bringing about this
result, no names are more conspicuous than those of Li Hung Chang and
General Gordon, whose sobriquet of "Chinese Gordon" ever afterwards
characterized him. Li's good fortune served him well in this war. Having
won the favor of the Court, he was in command of the forces of eastern
Kiangsu, and all the brilliant successes of Ward and Gordon were
credited to him. He was not only made governor of the province, but also
created an Earl in perpetuity.



Never did a smaller spark ignite a greater conflagration. In 1856 a
native junk named the "Arrow," sailing under a British flag, was seized
for piracy, her flag hauled down and her crew thrown into prison at
Canton. On demand of Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, they were
handed over to Consul Parkes (later Sir Harry); but he refused to
receive them because they were not accompanied by a suitable apology.
The haughty Viceroy Yeh put them all to death, provoking reprisals on
the part of the British, resulting in the occupation of Canton and the
capture of Peking after three campaigns to the north.

In this war England had France for ally; as the two powers had been
associated in that hugest of blunders, the Crimean War. Nor was the
alliance a less blunder on this occasion. Napoleon's excuse for
participation was the murder of a missionary in Kwangsi; but his real
motive was a desire to checkmate Great Britain, and prevent the conquest
of new territory. In the Opium War she had stopped at Nanking, leaving
the pride of China unhumbled, and the state of relations so unstable
that another war was required to place them on a better footing.
England, with unselfish generosity, invited the co-operation of Russia
and the United States. Either power might have found as good a pretext
for hostile action as that of France; but they chose to maintain an
attitude of neutrality, offering only such moral support as might enable
them to gather up the apples after the others had shaken the tree. In
1857 Canton was taken and held by the allies. The next spring the envoys
of the four powers, each with a considerable naval force, proceeded to
the mouth of the Peiho, the gateway to a capital as secluded and
exclusive as that of the Grand Lama. The forts made a show of
resistance, but they were put to silence in less than half an hour; and
negotiations which had been opened by the neutrals were resumed
at Tientsin.

Dr. S. Wells Williams was Chinese secretary to the United States
minister, Mr. William B. Reed; and I acted as interpreter for the spoken
language. An article in favor of Christian missions occasioned some
delay; and Mr. Reed, who was vain and shallow, said to us, "Now,
gentlemen, hurry up with your missionary article for I intend to sign my
treaty on the 18th of June [Waterloo day] with or without that clause."
Fancy a mind that could think of a treaty obtained by British guns as
entitling him to be associated with Wellington! Yet Mr. Reed had the
effrontery to say that he "expected us to make the missionary societies
duly sensible of their obligations" to him. That twenty-ninth article
was the gem of the treaty; and it had the honor of being copied into
that of Lord Elgin, which was signed eight days later.

High-minded, philanthropic, and upright, Lord Elgin made a mistake which
led to a renewal of the war. He refused to place Tientsin on the list of
open ports, because, as he said, "Foreign powers would make use of it to
overawe the Chinese capital," - just as if overawing was not a matter of
prime necessity. He hastened away to India to aid in suppressing the
Sepoy mutiny, eventually becoming viceroy after another campaign in
China. His brother, Sir F. Bruce, succeeded him as minister in China;
and twelve months later (July, 1859) the ministers of the four powers
were again at the mouth of the Peiho on their way to Peking for the
exchange of ratified copies of the several treaties. The United States
minister was John E. Ward, a noble-hearted son of Georgia, and the chief
of our little squadron was the gallant old Commodore Tatnall.

We were not a little surprised to see the demolished forts completely
rebuilt, and frowning defiance. We were told by officers who came down
to the shore that no vessel would be allowed to pass; but that the way
to Peking was open to us _via_ Peitang, a small port to the north.

To this Mr. Ward made no objection, but the British, who had so recently
held the keys of the capital, were indignant to be met by such a rebuff.
They steamed ahead between the forts, leaving the Chinese to take the
consequences. All at once the long line of batteries opened fire. One or
two gunboats were sunk; two or three were stranded. A storming party was
repulsed, and Admiral Hope, who was dangerously wounded, begged our
American commodore to give him a lift by towing up a flotilla of barges
filled with a reserve force. "Blood is thicker than water," exclaimed
Tatnall, in tones that have echoed round the globe, and Ward making no
objection, he threw neutrality to the winds, and proceeded to tow up the
barges. Our little steamer was commanded by Lieutenant Barker, now
Admiral Barker of the New York Navy Yard.

Even this failed to retrieve the day, the tide having fallen too low for
a successful landing. For the British admiral nothing remained but to
withdraw his shattered forces, and prepare for another campaign. For the
United States minister a dazzling prospect now presented itself, - that
of intervening to prevent the renewal of war. From Peitang we proceeded
by land two days. Then we continued our voyage for five days by boat on
the Upper Peiho.

At Peking, calling on the genial old Kweiliang, who had signed the
treaty in 1858, Mr. Ward was astonished at his change of tone. "You wish
to see the Emperor. That goes as a matter of course; but his Majesty
knows you helped the British, and he requires that you go on your knees
before the throne in token of repentance." "Tell him," said Mr. Ward to
me, "that I go on my knees only to God and woman." "Is not the Emperor
the same as God?" replied the old courtier, taking no notice of a
tribute to woman that was unintelligible to an Oriental mind. "You need
not really touch the ground with your knees," he continued; "but merely
make a show of kneeling. There will be eunuchs at hand to lift you up,
saying 'Don't kneel! Don't kneel!'" The eunuchs, as Mr. Ward well knew,
would be more likely to push us to our knees than to lift us up; and he
wisely decided to decline the honor of an audience on such terms.

Displeased by his obstinacy, the Emperor ordered him to quit the capital
without delay, and exchange ratifications at the sea-coast. A report was
long current in Peking that foreigners have no joints in their knees;
hence their reluctance to kneel. Thus vanished for Mr. Ward the
alluring prospect of winning for himself and his country the beatitude
of the peacemaker.

The summer of 1860 saw the Peiho forts taken, and an allied force of
thirty thousand men advancing on Peking. The court fled to Tartary, and
the summer palace was laid in ashes to punish the violation of a flag of
truce, the bearers of which were bound hand and foot, and left to perish
within its walls. For three days the smoke of its burning, carried by a
northwest wind, hung like a pall over the devoted city, whose
inhabitants were so terrified that they opened the gates half an hour
before the time set for bombardment. No soldiers were admitted, but the
demands of the Allies were all acceded to, and supplementary treaties
signed within the walls by Lord Elgin and Baron Gros. Peking was opened
to foreign residence. The French succeeded in opening the whole country
to the labors of missionaries. Legations were established at the
capital, and a new era of peace and prosperity dawned on the
distracted empire.



If the opening of Peking required a prolonged struggle, it was followed
by a quarter-century of pacific intercourse. China had at her helm a
number of wise statesmen, - such as Prince Kung and Wensiang. The
Inspectorate of Customs begun under Mr. Lay took shape under the skilful
management of Sir Robert Hart, and from that day to this it has proved
to be a fruitful nursery of reforms, political and social.

Not only were students sent abroad for education at the instance and
under the leadership of Yung Wing, but a school for interpreters was
opened in the capital, which, through the influence of Sir Robert Hart,
was expanded into the well-known Imperial College. On his nomination the
present writer was called to the head of it, and Wensiang proposed to
convert it into a great national university by making it obligatory on
the members of the Hanlin Academy, the Emperor's "Forest of Pencils," to
come there for a course of instruction in science and international law.
Against this daring innovation, Wojin, a Manchu tutor of the Emperor,
protested, declaring that it would be humiliating to China to have her
choicest scholars sit at the feet of foreign professors. The scheme fell
through, but before many years the Emperor himself had taken up the
study of the English language, and two of our students were selected to
be his instructors. One of them is at this present time (1902) Chinese
minister at the Court of St. James. Several of our students have had
diplomatic missions, and one, after serving as minister abroad, is now a
leading member of the Board of Foreign Affairs in Peking. A press
opened in connection with the college printed numerous text-books on
international law, political economy, physics, and mathematics,
translated by the president, professors, and students.

America was fortunate in the choice of the first minister whom she sent
to reside at Peking. This was Anson Burlingame, who, after doing much to
encourage the Chinese in the direction of progress, was by them made the
head of the first embassy which they sent to foreign nations. His
success in other countries was largely due to the sympathy with which he
had been received in the United States by Secretary Seward, and to the
advice and recommendations with which he was provided by that great
statesman. So deep an interest did Mr. Seward take in China that he went
in person to study its condition before the close of his career. In his
visit to Peking he was accompanied by his nephew, George F. Seward, who
was United States Consul at Shanghai. The latter has since that date
worthily represented our country as minister at Peking; but it may be
doubted whether in that high position he ever performed an international
service equal in importance to one performed during his consulship, for
which he has recently received the cross of the Legion of Honor. In
laying out their new concession at Shanghai, the French had excited the
hostility of the people by digging up and levelling down many of those
graves that occupied so much space outside of the city walls, and where
the Chinese who worshipped their ancestors were to be seen every day
burning paper and heaping up the earth. A furious mob fell on the French
police, chased them from the field, and menaced the French settlement
with knife and firebrand. The consuls were appealed to for aid, but no
one responded except Mr. Seward, who headed a strong force from one of
our men-of-war, dispersed the mob, and secured the safety of the foreign
settlement. But for his timely intervention who knows that the French
consulate would not have been reduced to ashes? If the consulate had
been burned down, a war would have been inevitable, with a chain of
consequences that baffles the imagination.

In 1871 a horrid atrocity was perpetrated by Chinese at Tientsin which
certainly would have led to war with France if Napoleon III. had not at
that very time been engaged in mortal combat with Germany. The populace
were made to believe that the sisters at the French hospital had been
seen extracting the eyeballs from their patients to use in the
manufacture of magical drugs. They were set upon by a maddened
multitude, a score or more of them slaughtered, and the buildings where
they had cared for the sick and suffering turned to a heap of ruins.
Count Rocheschouart, instead of reserving the case to be settled at a
later day, thought best to accept from the Chinese government an
apology, with an ample sum in the way of pecuniary compensation. That
grewsome superstition has led to bloodshed in more than one part
of China.

In the summer of 1885 I was called one day from the Western Hills to the
Tsungli-Yamen, or Foreign Office, on business of great urgency. On
arriving, I was informed that the Chinese gunboats in the river Min had
been sunk by the French the day before; that they had also destroyed the
Arsenal at the mouth of the river. "This," said the Secretary, "means
war, and we desire to know how non-combatants belonging to the enemy and

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Online LibraryJohn LordBeacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents → online text (page 15 of 26)